Whether creating a simple set of corner steps, or an intricate staircase that includes a sun shelf, adhere to these tips for proper construction.
Place floor heads symmetrically.
When setting floor heads to clean the steps, try centering them on the steps or placing them in an otherwise orderly fashion.
“We need to make sure that those pipes are in the center of the steps, with some sort of symmetry, so they’re in a line or something that looks professional and well-though-out,” says John Fitzgerald, senior project manager for South Shore Gunite Pool and Spa Inc. in Chelmsford, Mass. “If they’re a little crooked or closer to the riser or the leading edge versus other step heads, that can be a cue that something’s amok.”
No rebound in the steps.
It’s true that rebound can be a pain. It’s tempting to shovel this shotcrete byproduct into the shell itself – particularly steps, where the rebound can be piled up and shot over with 2 or 3 inches of concrete.
Don’t do it. “The steps will crumble over time,” Fitzgerald says. The concrete-coated pieces of aggregate won’t bond well enough with each other or the shotcrete next to it.
Rebound shouldn’t be used in any region of the country. But it is most disastrous in the cold regions. “[The steps are] not of sufficient strength to withstand the ice pushing up against them,” Fitzgerald says. “It’ll typically take the edges off the steps if they’re made with rebound as opposed to nozzled material.”
Reinforce the steps for freeze/thaw.
To help steps withstand the cold-warm cycles in the Northeast, veteran builder Al Rizzo builds them below the frost line.
First, his excavation crews proceed as if the pool won’t have a stairway, rather than sculpting the ground in the shape of the steps. Shotcreters then shoot the shell, again sans steps.
“With the walls and floor put in, we shoot the steps after,” says Rizzo, owner of Rizzo Pools in Newington, Conn. “So now I’ve got a solid block. I don’t have to worry about frost ever hurting that step.”
This solution ensures that the concrete dips 3-1/2 feet into the ground -- well below the 24-inch-deep frost line.
Make pebble radiuses larger.
If the pool is to be finished in a pebble product, let the shotcrete or gunite crew know ahead of time. They’ll need to cut the steps with a larger-than-normal radius at the edge of each.
Pebble coatings have so much more texture and they’re put on ½- to 5/8 inch thick, so the applicators need more room on that edge to work the trowel.
“If you make them too sharp, it’s very difficult to get enough material on to cover it,” says Bob Tomlinson, president of Tomlinson and Associates in Burley, Idaho. “It’s a 2-inch radius that they’re putting on pebble steps.”